Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Other Half of Brave

(To read Brave click here)

I was back in Sasha's classroom this morning for "Family Reading".  Twice a week, about half of her classmates are able to pull their parents in to sit in tiny chairs beside them and listen to them read.

Today there were two more parents squished into tiny chairs in the classroom.  They belonged to the new boy, R, who joined the class last week.   R excitedly held his dad's hand and showed him the book shelf, eagerly picking a book on Vikings which is the theme the class is in the middle of exploring.  He sits with his mom and dad at his desk, pointing, talking, and laughing together.  R's eyes sparkle.  He speaks with a quick, animated cadence in Portuguese.  His parents speak back to him, stopping to rub his back or give his shoulder a squeeze - looking at the pictures but not able to read the words.

I wonder what they're thinking, as they sit beside him.  They are surrounded by the hum of six and seven year olds reading aloud in a language that doesn't yet belong to them.  The desks are full of parents who can chat with their child's teacher, Principal, or other parents with ease.  The words on the bulletin boards and notices that go home hold combinations of letters and sounds that don't yet mean anything to them.  Is it overwhelming?  Exhausting?  Daunting?  Intimidating?  Surely it must be a collection of all of these.

Soon the chimes ring and it's time for the student's to thank their readers and listeners and say goodbye.  R's parents offer enormous warm hugs to their son with kisses on his cheeks.  They let him go and leave him in this world of foreign sounds and symbols.  Leaving him to navigate this journey on his own.  They can't do this for him, and they must know that soon it will be him teaching them.  His mom gives him one more squeeze to his hand and then walks out.

I want to put my arm around her and say,
"He'll be fine.  
There are boys who are taking him under their wing.  
You are welcome here. 
I hope you will soon feel like part of this community.  
Tell me your story.  
How did this place become your home?  
It must be so hard to leave him.  
How does it feel?"

But I can't.
I can only catch their eyes and smile - try to say in a warm look all that I want them to know.

They walk across the playground to the parking lot together, the door closing behind them.
This is the other half of brave.


  1. tears... Perfectly said. Eye contact can say so much! they felt your love.

  2. This brought me to tears today Karla. As someone who has lived in a foreign land, I can say that it's the closest feeling I've had to being blind or deaf. How often we ended up with orders at restaurants we didn't want, groceries that were overpriced or a bus that took us somewhere we didnt want to go. I can tell you that a smile is HUGE, even if you can't say anything. They need your love and warmth and compassion.